Manalee Nanavati

MA in Internaional Architectural Regeneration and Development (IARD)

Why did you choose to come to Oxford Brookes?

After completion of bachelors in architecture, I further wanted to specialise in architectural anthropology. I was looking for a masters course that would provide me an opportunity to pursue this multidisciplinary interest and explore its professional applications. It took me a whole year to hunt through almost all the courses offered worldwide on this subject, among which I found International Architectural Regeneration and Development to be one of the best fits for my search. Primarily it was this course that made me keen on Oxford Brookes.

The second reason was the university’s location, Oxford, which added in this willingness, while the longstanding reputation of Brookes school of architecture and positive experiences of its alumni confirmed my decision.

However, this dream wouldn’t have been materialised without the availability of funding. Thus, the university’s offer of full scholarship became my final reason for choosing Brookes.

Did you have contact with any representative or agent regarding your application? If so, which one, and was this helpful?

No, I had done my application entirely on my own. The application process, in fact, is pretty easy if you know what exactly you are looking for from the course.

What was the best thing about your course?

The course is multidisciplinary in a true sense. By crossing the boundaries of single discipline, and by exposing me to other related disciplines, it allowed me to study the subject in a holistic manner. Moreover, the structure of this course is quite open with a range of modules available to opt from. Hence, I could easily tailor it to address my specific interests.

Apart from this, one more noteworthy factor is the admirable faculties of this course. Their openness, enthusiasm and positive attitude provided the required confidence to my passion for this subject, and I will always be grateful for that.

How different did you find the University’s teaching style compared to that of your previous experience? (e.g. at school)

The teaching style at Brookes was quite different from that of my previous experience, and, hence, it contributed an important share in my learning.

For example, unlike my graduation course, at Brookes greater thrust was given on analytical thinking. In skills such as academic reading and writing, or in assignments and studio projects, here we were trained to consciously question any fact or finding. In my case, this training has added a lot to both professional and personal growth.

What learning facilities did you use the most at Oxford Brookes University?

It was the library that I used the most. The collection at the Brookes library is commendable, but in case there is something unavailable there, as a Brookes student you can always access the Bodleian library or Oxford Central library and find literally any book or paper you are looking for.

Other than the library, I also used the facility of academic English modules, which helped me improve upon my academic writing skills.

Did you do a work placement or a work based module? If so where, and what did you learn from this experience?

No, my course didn’t have any such module.

What jobs have you undertaken since you have graduated?

While at Brookes, I had won the ISA Travel Award for my proposal of studying the post-disaster rehabilitation works of Yasmeen Lari. Yasmeen is an eminent architect, and the founder of Heritage Foundation of Pakistan, based in Karachi. She is best known for her initiative of community practice for the sustainable development of Pakistan’s disaster affected areas, and has also won many national and international awards for the same.

After finishing masters, I started working on this project under Yasmeen’s guidance. At present, I am studying her ‘zero cost, zero carbon footprint’ methodologies of construction, which are developed from simple technical advancements in local vernacular architecture. Based on this study, I will be further preparing an entry for the ‘encyclopaedia of vernacular architecture (2nd ed.)’ under the supervision of Dr. Marcel Vellinga at Oxford Brookes.

On the other hand, I am slowly establishing my own practice in India, through which in future I aim to explore if Yasmeen’s methodologies can be employed here to help the poor areas of my country.

How did your course help you prepare for this employment?

I had come to know about Yasmeen Lari’s works while working on one of my course assignments. I developed so much interest in them that I contacted her directly and decided to learn these methodologies from her. Furthermore, this learning from her works is very much in line with my masters course, or in other words, my course provided me the base on which I am developing this project on Yasmeen’s work.

What did you like most about living in Oxford?

Oxford is an absolutely lovely town, and for students, in particular, it is one of the most favourable places to be in.

In spite of a considerable diversity in residential, commercial and recreational areas, this city offers a vibrant academic environment full of museums, exhibitions, events, public lectures, seminars and all sorts of student activities. Hence, there’s a lot to learn even outside the university.

Additionally, the city has got a ‘not too big, not too small’ sort of perfectly manageable scale. Therefore, transportation, places to stay, grocery stores, restaurants, parks etc. everything is easily accessible and is always within your reach no matter where you choose to stay.

Were you involved in any clubs, societies or Brookes activities?

I was a member of OxArch, Oxford Anthropology society and Brookes Film club, as a part of which I used to attend lectures, talks and film nights. As a part of OxArch, I had also written a research article for OSA student magazine; while as an IARD student I had volunteered in organising an exhibition on Paul Oliver’s photography at the Pitt Rivers museum.

Did you live in University halls? If so did you enjoy it and why?

No, I had stayed as a lodger with a local family, whose reference was provided by the Brookes accommodation office. My experience of staying with this family was extremely enjoyable.

How easy did you find it to settle into life at the University?

Oh, it was very easy. Brookes has such an international environment that it becomes very easy to gel with fellow students as well as staff. The faculties are also extremely helpful and kind, so if at all you face any difficulty in your subjects, you can always approach them without hesitation.

Would you recommend Oxford Brookes to other international students, if so, why?

I would certainly recommend Oxford Brookes to other international students, because both this university and this city will provide them with a learning experience that is beyond any degree course. Studying here will offer them an exposure to not only an international academic system but also an international environment, which will play a vital role in broadening their worldview.

What are your top tips for international students coming to Brookes?

Both Brookes and Oxford have a lot to offer, a lot to add to your experience and knowledge. Whether it is a facility like the library or workshop, an extra-curricular activity like drama club or sports, or any academic or non-academic person such as your professor or a guest speaker, every door is open here. It will be up to you how much you extract from it. So, go ahead, follow your interests and make the MOST of all that you have here!

Postgraduate profile


Manalee Nanavati


MA International Architectural Regeneration and Development


September 2015



The course is multidisciplinary in a true sense. By crossing the boundaries of single discipline, and by exposing me to other related disciplines, it allowed me to study the subject in a holistic manner.